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SXSW Review: “Here Before” Explores the Unnerving, Volatile Obsession of a Mother Who has Lost a Child

Written by: Matt Patti | March 18th, 2021

“Here Before” director Stacey Gregg

Here Before (Stacey Gregg, 2021) 2½ out of 4 stars.

The loss of a loved one is one of the most difficult things that humans have to deal with. Unfortunately, it happens to almost everyone at some point in their lives. Losing a young child, however, especially in a sudden accident, is one of the things parents fear the most. Coping with such a tragedy seems almost impossible, but people do what they must. I’ve heard stories of people that find someone that reminds them of that person, bringing them a new-but-familiar comfort.

In director Stacey Gregg’s drama-thriller Here Before, a mother, Laura (Andrea Riseborough, Possessor) is still attempting to come to terms with her daughter Josie’s death, which took place a few years prior. When a new family moves in next door, Laura takes a particular interest in their daughter Megan, as she is around the same age as Josie was when she died. The two begin to spend a lot of time together, and Laura notices that Megan is strangely very similar to Josie. Weirder, Megan seems to know of things that only Josie would know. Entranced by the possibility that Josie may be living through Megan, Laura spends more and more time with her, attempting to figure out what is going on. Megan’s family soon begins to become concerned with Laura’s obsession, however. Unraveling and out of control, Laura soon dives a bit too deep and begins to find a truth that she was not expecting.

Andrea Riseborough in HERE BEFORE ©Stacey Gregg

Here Before is a bit slow to start but gives necessary hints at Laura and her family’s background and the feeling of loss they experience as a result of their tragedy with Josie. Megan’s strange behaviors leave the audience guessing at the possibilities as a creepy mystery unfolds. The cinematography and score in the film fit its style very well, as both adapt to match the sad dramatic aspects as well as the taut thriller atmosphere. The film functions as both drama and thriller, to its benefit as we sympathize with all of the characters even when they go entirely too far. The viewer is simultaneously uncomfortable and unnerved, but also understanding of Laura’s actions. Riseborough gives an intense, believable performance as a desperate mother that would do anything to connect with her deceased daughter, even when everyone around her thinks she is crazy. The film holds the audience’s interest throughout and makes them question what is real and what might be in Laura’s head, until its surprising conclusion.

Unfortunately, even after the conclusion, some events in the film still don’t add up. It is also difficult for the audience to understand the significance of some of Megan’s behaviors as we never get to meet Josie; the only times we see her are in short flashbacks and photographs. So, we don’t learn that anything Megan does is of significance until one of the characters tells us that it is. It is implied, of course, by the characters’ reactions. But some things still do not come full circle.

Niamh Dornan in HERE BEFORE ©Stacey Gregg

Nevertheless, Here Before is a gripping thriller that also pulls a bit at the heartstrings. The film brings to light the obsession and madness that can take place due to the loss of a loved one and the actions one will take to see them again, if they believe there is hope, and the connections they’ll make even when they seem ludicrous. The shocking finale is mostly satisfying and memorable even though it comes out of left field at first. Overall, the film is effective as a tale of a grieving mother chasing a mysterious new hope that ends up going too far, leading to unforeseen consequences.

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Matt Patti is a Stevenson University alumnus who graduated with a degree in Film & Moving Image, with a concentration in producing and writing and a minor in communication. He has enjoyed voicing his opinions on films since a very young age. Matt has recently moved to the Baltimore area and currently works full-time as a Video Production Assistant. He also enjoys creating short films with Baltimore-area friends to enter into contests as well as purely for the love of the craft.

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